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Volunteers ensure success of family-friendly picnic and Pops

MIDDLEBURY — The Morsman family of Weybridge has been going to the Sheldon Museum’s annual Pops Concert for several years, always enjoying the music and camaraderie of the evening.
“There’s really no other place where you can enjoy a leisurely picnic with your family, catch up with your community, enjoy wonderful music, and view fireworks,” said Amy Morsman, a mother of two children, ages eight and 10.
The Henry Sheldon Museum’s 22nd annual Pops Concert will be held next Friday evening, June 27, in the grassy area behind Middlebury College’s Mahaney Center for the Arts. It is the museum’s largest fundraiser, attracting 500-750 guests and generating funds that benefit the nonprofit museum and its mission to preserve Vermont history.
The event features the Vermont Philharmonic Orchestra and fireworks, making it a popular picnicking outing for Addison County families such as the Morsmans.
 The concert venue “has beautiful views, plenty of space for the little ones to run around, and close access to bathrooms and parking,” Morsman said. “The Sheldon has done a really good job organizing this event.”
Behind the scenes, Sheldon Museum Executive Director Bill Brooks and the 14 members of the event’s organizing committee busily prepare for months preceding the concert. Work on this month’s show started in November of last year, with volunteers responsible for all of the significant preparations necessary for what Brooks describes as a “fun and festive evening.”
Brooks, a resident of New Haven, has been heading the planning and preparation for the annual Pops Concert since he returned to Addison County to head the museum two years ago, and he commends the organizing team and the generous spirit of the town.
“It’s easy to get volunteers,” he said. “Middlebury is a very giving community.”
Middlebury College, for its part, donates access to the location next to the athletic fields, offers setup assistance, and provides security for the event.
“We couldn’t do this without the partnership with Middlebury College,” Brooks said.
Longtime volunteer Adele Pierce of Middlebury also expressed appreciation of the college and its willingness to accommodate the event regardless of the weather — Middlebury College has hosted the performance in Nelson Arena when rain otherwise would have washed out the fun time.
“Middlebury College has been so wonderful and cooperative that we’ve never had to worry about going indoors,” Pierce said. “It’s a lot of fun inside anyway.”
Pierce has been volunteering since the first pops concert 22 years ago. She was the head organizer for many years, until she stepped back from that leadership role about six years ago. She now helps to secure individual sponsors in order to help underwrite the costs of the orchestra, tent rental, sound system, advertising fees and other assorted costs that come along with staging a once-a-year outdoor concert.
“A lot of the credit should go to a lot of different people,” Pierce said of the committee’s collaborative efforts.
Pierce said that volunteering is still very rewarding to her, and that she is pleased that the event is always both a “musical success that everyone enjoys and financially successful as well.”
Furthermore, the event has grown tremendously since the first concert. “The first pops concert only made about $1,800,” recalled Pierce with a laugh. “It is our major fundraising event of the year now.”
The Barre-based Vermont Philharmonic Orchestra, which will be playing at this year’s concert, is the state’s oldest community orchestra and features approximately 60 musicians. Director Louis Kosma has a solid resume both behind the conductor’s podium and in front of it. When he is not working with the Vermont Philharmonic, Kosma plays double bass with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, and he teaches privately and as an adjunct double bass instructor at New Jersey City University. This year, soprano Michele Bolduc of Montreal will accompany the orchestra in the Broadway-style program.
Part of the Sheldon Museum Pops Concert’s success may be attributed to its broad appeal to people of all ages and interests, suggested Middlebury resident Joyce Heath, another of the event’s volunteers.
“It’s nice to go for a picnic prior to the concert, and the acoustics are wonderful. The orchestra is very good. It’s always a very pleasant experience for everyone,” she said.
Tickets are $20 for adults, $10 for youth ages 12-18, and may be purchased by phone at 388-2117, online at www.henrysheldonmuseum.org or in person at the Sheldon, 1 Park St. in Middlebury. Children younger than 12 are admitted free.
The week before the concert, tickets increase to $25. The grounds open at 5:30 p.m. and the concert begins at 7:30 p.m. A half-hour fireworks show in honor of Independence Day follows the show after sunset.

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